PARENTS are being urged to be aware of the symptoms of whooping cough after a dramatic rise in cases in Doncaster.
Experts say whooping cough rates peak once every four years - but this year’s figure far exceeds the number experienced in 2008.
Between January and October last year, 30 suspected cases of whooping cough were reported in Doncaster.
The figure compares to just five instances five years ago.
Dr Wendy Phillips, unit director of the South Yorkshire Health Protection Unit and consultant in communicable disease control, said: “The national outbreak of whooping cough is affecting South Yorkshire.
“Because the illness is highly infectious and can be very serious for young babies, it is important parents and healthcare professionals remain alert to the symptoms.”
Whooping cough is an infectious bacterial disease which spreads when someone with the condition coughs and sheds bacteria which are then inhaled by another person.
“The symptoms include severe coughing fits accompanied by the characteristic ‘whoop’ sound in young children, but as a prolonged cough in older children or adults,” said Dr Phillips.
“It is also advisable to keep babies away from older siblings or adults who have the infection.”
Five of the cases of whooping cough reported in Doncaster this year have been tested and confirmed as positive in the Health Protection Authority laboratory, but not every case is analysed when there is an outbreak.
Because the national outbreak is so severe a vaccine is being offered to pregnant women.
Dr Phillips added young children are at the highest risk of severe complications or even death from whooping cough.